Tuesday, September 23, 2014

WNU #1234: 8 Guatemalans Killed in Dispute Over Construction

Issue #1234, September 21, 2014

1. Guatemala: 8 Die in Cement Factory Dispute
2. Honduras: Mine Opponents Report New Threats
3. Mexico: Cananea Toxic Spills Continue
4. Chile: Alleged Anarchists Arrested in Bombing
5. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Mexico, Haiti, US/immigration

ISSN#: 1084 922X. Weekly News Update on the Americas covers news from Latin America and the Caribbean, compiled and written from a progressive perspective. It has been published weekly by the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York since 1990. It is archived at http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com. For a subscription, write to weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com. Follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/WeeklyNewsUpdat.

*1. Guatemala: 8 Die in Cement Factory Dispute
A confrontation between indigenous Guatemalans in the early morning of Sept. 20 over the construction of a cement factory and a highway left eight dead in Loma Blanca community, San Juan Sacatepéquez municipality, about 30 km northwest of Guatemala City in Guatemala department. Several others were injured, and three houses and five vehicles were set on fire. According to Daniel Pascual, the leader of the Campesino Unity Committee (CUC) [see Update #1123], several armed men, some of them employees of the Cementos Progreso cement company, fired on residents who oppose the two construction projects. A Cementos Progreso representative, José González Merlos, blamed factory opponents. “These acts of violence aren’t new,” he said, charging that construction workers “have frequently been harassed and attacked in their homes.” Factory opponents “respect absolutely nothing,” according to González Merlos.

San Juan Sacatepéquez residents, who are mostly members of the Kaqchikel Mayan group, have been organizing against construction of the cement factory since 2007; one was killed during a protest in a June 2008 [see Update #1183]. Many of the residents also oppose the government’s plan to run a highway through the municipality as part of the Regional Beltway, a highway which is to encircle Guatemala City. However, some residents have gotten jobs in the construction of the cement factory or have made money by selling their land for the highway. Witnesses said the violence on Sept. 20 grew out of a late-night argument between supporters and opponents of the projects; one witness claimed the participants had been drinking. A construction supporter shot an opponent dead, according to some reports, and his friends then retaliated by killing the attacker and six members of his family. (Periódico Digital (Mexico) 9/20/14 from AFP; Prensa Libre (Guatemala) 9/20/14)

In related news, the CUC was one of the organizations sponsoring two days of road blockages and other protests on Sept. 17 and 18 to demand that Congress pass two bills, the Rural Development Law and the Community Communication Media Law. Campesinos demonstrated at 26 sites around the country. The national protests came a little more than two weeks after similar campesino actions helped promote repeal of the “Monsanto Law,” a measure authorizing patents on hybrid and genetically modified (GM) plants [see Update #1232].

At least five people were injured during the protests on Sept. 18 when police agents tried to remove roadblocks in the eastern department of Chiquimula. Interior Minister Mauricio Lopez Bonilla told reporters that the protesters fired on police, while the CUC’s Pascual described the incident as a “brawl” and indicated that police hit a Maya Chariti woman with live ammunition. A teenager suffered a head injury when protesters blocking the Inter-American highway at San Cristóbal Totonicapán, Totonicapán, threw rocks at a bus he was riding as the driver tried to pass through. Highways were also blocked in Quetzaltenango, Quiché, Jalapa, Retalhuleu and Alta Verapaz departments. In Alta Verapaz a group of demonstrators detained Raxruhá mayor Gumercindo Reyes Bolvito for five hours to pressure the authorities to listen to their demands, while in Chisec municipality, also in Alta Verapaz, alleged demonstrators damaged the home of Mayor Rogelio Cal. (Prensa Libre 9/18/14; Latin American Herald Tribune 9/18/14 from EFE; Prensa Latina 9/19/14)

*2. Honduras: Mine Opponents Report New Threats
Members of Honduras’ Tolupan indigenous group in the community of San Francisco Locomapa in the northern department of Yoro have been threatened by armed men linked to organized crime, some residents charged in a video posted on YouTube on Sept. 10. There have been protests for more than a year against illegal logging in the area and against an antimony mine which the protesters say is operating without a permit. Locomapa residents María Enriqueta Matute, Armando Fúnez Medina and Ricardo Soto were killed by two mine employees during a protest on Aug. 23, 2013 [see Update #1190]. The Honduran Black Fraternal Organization (OFRANEH) and other Honduran organizations say the government has failed to arrest the killers or take other actions required by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, or CIDH in Spanish), the human rights agency of the Organization of American States (OAS). The CID ordered protective measures for 38 community members last year on Dec. 19. (Adital (Brazil) 9/18/14)

*3. Mexico: Cananea Toxic Spills Continue
The State Civil Protection Unit (UEPC) of the northern Mexican state of Sonora issued a new alert on Sept. 21 warning some 25,000 residents about likely contamination in the Bacanuchi and Sonora rivers from the giant Buenavista del Cobre copper mine in Cananea. According to Arizpe municipality president Vidal Vázquez Chacón, who reported the contamination a day earlier, the source was a leak in the temporary dam set up to stop the overflow of toxic substances after 40,000 cubic meters of copper sulfate acid solution spilled from the mine into the two rivers on Aug. 6 [see Update #1231]. Spokespeople for Grupo México, the company that owns and operates the mine, said the latest overflow was caused by heavy rains associated with Hurricane Odile in mid-September. The 115-year-old mine makes $1 billion annually by producing some 200,000 tons of copper each year. (La Jornada (Mexico) 9/21/14; Associated Press 9/21/14 via Salon)

Anger is growing over the damages from the spill; the National Water Commission (Conagua) initially set the cost at more than 702 million pesos (about US$53 million). On Sept. 19 the UEPC officially confirmed that Buenavista del Cobre personnel were intentionally allowing runoffs from the temporary dam. The agency’s director, Carlos Jesús Arias, said that the mine was no longer giving inspectors access to the area and that UEPC officials would bring along public security forces for the next inspection. (LJ 9/20/14)

Two days earlier, on Sept. 17, the Chamber of Deputies of the federal Congress called for the immediate suspension of the mine’s operations, charging that Grupo México was putting human lives at risk, along with the environment and the region’s economic development. The deputies said the company should be required to pay for all damages, and they endorsed an investigation by a special commission of the Chamber that had found repeated violations of environmental and labor regulations at Cananea. Among other findings, the commission charged that the only protection miners had against dust at the mine came from paper masks issued by management. (LJ 9/15/14, 9/18/14)

The Cananea mine was privatized in 1990 when former president Carlos Salinas de Gortari (1988-1994) sold it to Grupo México, whose main shareholder is Mexican billionaire Germán Larrea Mota Velasco [see Update #1037]. The latest problems with the mine come as current president Enrique Peña Nieto pushes ahead with the privatization of the energy sector [see Update #1214].

In other news, on Sept. 20 the federal Attorney General’s Office (PGR) announced that it was opening an investigation into the killing of 22 people by soldiers on June 30 in Tlatlaya municipality in México state [see World War 4 Report 9/10/14]. The military claimed that the victims, apparently members of a gang, died in a shootout, but witnesses say they were executed after surrendering. The México state authorities had ruled that there was no wrongdoing on the part of the soldiers. (LJ 9/21/14)

*4. Chile: Alleged Anarchists Arrested in Bombing
On Sept. 18 Chilean authorities arrested three supposed anarchists, Juan Alexis Flores Riquelme, Nataly Casanova Muñoz and Guillermo Durán Méndez, on charges of participation in the Sept. 8 bombing at a shopping center in Santiago’s Escuela Militar subway station; 14 people were injured in the lunchtime blast [see Update #1233]. Public defender Eduardo Camus, who is representing the defendants, said they denied involvement. The arrests took place during an operation by more than 200 agents of the carabineros militarized police which included searches in six homes in the working-class Santiago-area communes of La Granja, San Bernardo and La Pintana. So far there have been some 200 bombings and attempted bombings in Chile in the past 10 years; most caused no injuries.

Also on Sept. 18, a statement appeared on an anarchist website claiming responsibility for the attack by part of an international network known as the “Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire” (“Conspiración de las Células del Fuego,” or CCF, in Spanish). The statement--posted at a URL which now appears to be inaccessible, http://es.contrainfo.espiv.net/2014/09/18/santiago-chile-reivindicacion-de-los-bombazos-en-la-estacion-los-dominicos-y-el-subcentro-de-escuela-militar/--claimed that the group called an emergency number “more than 10 minutes before the blast, waiting for police to react by evacuating, but they ignored it, detonating the device and causing several injuries, which we lament. Our target was not consumers or workers, but the structures, properties and enforcers of power.”

The “Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire” seems to be mostly based in Greece, and the US State Department has reportedly labeled the Greek section a terrorist group, although the group doesn’t appear on the State Department’s official terrorist list. Anarchists and other leftists in Chile have denounced the Sept. 8 attack, and University of Chile history professor Sergio Grez, who writes about anarchism, questioned whether anarchists were involved. “To conflate anarchism and terrorism is not just a profound historical mistake but a politically motivated one as well,” he told the Associated Press wire service. (Terra Chile 9/18/14 from EFE; Radio Universidad de Chile 9/18/14; Washington Post 9/18/14 from AP)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Mexico, Haiti, US/immigration

Battle Hots Up to Curb ‘Vulture Funds’ (Argentina)

Uruguay’s Legalization of Marijuana Makes Sense in a Senseless Drug War

Uruguay: Deepening of progressivism or conservative break?

Amazon's 'flying rivers' dry up (Brazil)

The Negation of Rights in Mato Grosso do Sul: A Look at the Reality (Brazil)

Connectivity and Mobility through Bolivia's Cable Cars

Anti-Semitic attacks in Bolivia: usual confusion

Remains Believed to Be Those of Murdered Indigenous Leader Found in Peru

Peru Plans to Abolish Iconic Amazon Indigenous Reserve, NGO Claims

Ecuador: mobilizations for and against Correa

Colombia: freed cartel hitman demands protection

Colombia: Chocó indigenous leaders assassinated

Latest Video Links Opposition Mayor to Venezuelan Terrorists

56 Tons of Venezuelan Humanitarian Aid Reach Gaza in Second Shipment since August

World Bank Tribunal Weighs Final Arguments in El Salvador Mining Dispute

Multinational Mineral Company Strikes Back at El Salvador

Yaqui Tribal Authority’s Jailing in Water Conflict Signals Need to Implement Environmental Justice (Mexico)

US$525 Million in Mexico's Oil Industry

Mexico: a new Pax Mafiosa?

Mexico: San Salvador Atenco Fights for Land, Resists Proposed Airport

U.N. and U.S. Blame Haiti’s Opposition for Delayed Elections, Ignore History

How a little hospitality has helped grow the movement for migrant rights (US/immigration)

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